Filed under: Building knowledge, Energy Efficiency, Hot Topic, Waste, Water Efficiency | Tags: climate, environment, Home, LEED Miami Green Building, nature, Sebastian Eilert Architecture
While water and wastewater (WWW) treatment accounts for a surprising 5% of total U.S. electric power generation, topographically-variable WWW conveyance account for a more surprising 15% of the same total [Pod06; Coh04]. In addition, while wastewater contains energy in dilute form, current goals for recovering such energy represent only 0.02% of the total generation, through the use of microbial fuel cells of the future [Log04]. If, on the other hand, WWW were decentralized, up to 15% of total U.S. electric power production could be saved.
While centralization of WWW treatment was implemented to concentrate resources and ensure water quality, today many monitoring, quality control, and operation and maintenance (O&M) functions can be decentralized electronically. Imagine, if each building of the future contains a direct potable reuse system, then maintenance personnel, rather than driving to a central facility daily, would be dispatched electronically to neighborhoods for routine annual maintenance. Moreover, decentralization would increase the accountability of neighborhood residents in terms of responsible use of water, personal care products, and household chemicals.
Beyond energy savings, autonomous net-zero water (ANZW) buildings would not need to treat for most pesticides (US, 5 billion lbs/y) and industrial chemicals (US, 6 billion lbs/y), representing a total mass loading of 2 mg/L on U.S. surface and groundwater runoff. Treatment instead would focus on effective destruction of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) such as pharmaceuticals, which cannot be as easily regulated in terms of environmental half-life as pesticides and other chemicals, by advanced oxidation. This latter advantage would address the current 6% feminization of male fish across all species (20%, black bass) in U.S. river basins [Hin09]. Finally, an urban demand for e.g. one million gallons of water every day in Southeast Florida would be removed from the (Everglades) natural system. Eliminated would be water rationing, and the need to treat seawater with total impurity levels two orders of magnitude higher than drinking water standards, to drinking water standards when impurities in treated wastewater e.g. in S. Florida currently meet 87 of the 93 numerical drinking water standards on average without further treatment.
Increased construction activity in the outlined areas over the last 10+ years. Many infill projects and zero lot line developments. Increased population growth in the target area with increased load (people) and demand (use per individual). Overall individual load has increased over X years by X gallons per day. Strain on water treatment system and infrastructure, especially close to water ways cited. Septic tanks systems that are undersized, outdated or broken, without eh owner knowledge. Purposeful (non permitted or documented) re-routing of sewage water to nearby water ways and excess burden on municipal sewer system with surface water runoff, increased rainfall intensity and more man-made diversions of water. Quantity of subsurface runoff (stormwater).
Estimates of water use in the United States indicate that about 410 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn in 2005 for all categories summarized in this report. This total is slightly less than the estimate for 2000, and about 5 percent less than total withdrawals in the peak year of 1980. Freshwater withdrawals in 2005 were 349 Bgal/d, or 85 percent of the total freshwater and saline-water withdrawals. Fresh groundwater withdrawals of 79.6 Bgal/day in 2005 were about 5 percent less than in 2000, and fresh surface-water withdrawals of 270 Bgal/day were about the same as in 2000. Withdrawals for thermoelectric-power generation and irrigation, the two largest uses of water, have stabilized or decreased since 1980. Withdrawals for public-supply and domestic uses have increased steadily since estimates began. http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1344/
The term sustainable can be defined as “requiring no outside inputs.” A sustainable garden, although needing to be pruned and groomed as to not become a forest, has many benefits over the tradition flower garden. Sustainable gardens require no fertilizer, less watering, are low maintenance and they improve soil quality tremendously. Due to a concern with the environment all over the world, sustainable garden is coming forward.
Fertilizer is the main concern. In Wisconsin, for example, fertilizer runoff into the smaller lakes has caused many problems. First: water pollution. The water now has chemicals in it that are harmful and cannot be consumed. The fertilizer is also creating rapid underwater plant growth. Lakes that were once blue and clear to the bottom are now grey green with zero visibility. This pollution does not just affect the plants but the fish as well. Many species of fish are dying off and others are mutating over time. Another downside to fertilizer is that the process in which it is created requires fossil fuels. We want to conserve fuels, not waste them on plant steroids.
Water scarcity around the world because of drought and lack of new sources of fresh water is addressed with sustainable gardening. By using native or drought resistant plants in a sustainable garden, less watering is needed. It is also recommended that plant watering happens directly at the root. This keeps the plant happy, well-fed and means less watering of unnecessary dirt patches. Using less water also minimizes a water utility bill.
The basic components of a sustainable garden are the organic methods and inputs, water quality and conservation and plant selection.
1. The first step is to set up the garden space. Reducing storm water runoff and using less impervious surfaces helps in creating a healthy, non-flooding environment. This can be done using rain barrels or rain gardens.
2. Select your plants. Drought resistant and native plants are the safest option, however perennials, larger grasses, and tough shrubs are also very successful for this type of garden. The plants should be grouped together with other that have similar watering needs, so as to not waste. It is also important to consider the health of the plants. Make sure to choose those that are the most pest-resistant and disease-resistant. If planting trees, deciduous trees should be to the south of the home to maximize shading on your structure for example. On the north, plant evergreens for winter wind protection.
3. Remember to conserve. Be water smart and instead of using a sprinkler with lots of evaporation and waste, water the plants directly at the roots; this is also sometimes called xeriscaping. A little side note, reuse that plastic milk jug. Poke holes in it to make a great watering can or use perforated hose pipe with water coming out at a trickle for more direct root watering.
4. Enjoy! Every once in a while the garden will need to be tamed because left alone it can become a forest. Weeding can be done by hand or even with a 10% vinegar solution!
Sustainable gardening has both financial and environmental benefits and creating this unique garden space adds to appeal of your home.
(SE, EB, edit JLD)
Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Materials, Resources, Sustainable Living, Water Efficiency
Solar water heaters have been replacing gas water heaters over the past ten years at a rapid pace. Consumer interest in them is not solely for the tax credits, but also for their economic payback with cheaper bills and startup costs.
The pros and cons for gas and solar water heaters are lengthy so there are a few things one needs to know when weighing the idea of solar. Solar powered heaters come in many different forms but typically consist of a collector and a heater.
There are three different types of collectors:
-Flat Plate Collector- This collector is an insulated and weatherproof box with a dark absorber plate underneath glass or plastic covers. They are similar to those used to heat swimming pools.
-Integral Collector Store Systems-These are also known as ICS or batch systems. They are made up of black storage tanks and tubes in a similar insulated box. Cold water passes through the solar collector first, heating up the water just a little, and then proceeds on to the backup water heater. This keeps a consistent source of hot water, and is more reliable. However, they are not good in cold climates as the tubes could freeze.
-Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors- These are made up of rows of clear glass tubes. Each tube has a metal absorber tubs which absorbs solar energy but inhibits radiant heat loss.
There are two types of active solar water heating systems:
-Direct Circulation Systems- pumps circulate household water through the collectors and into the home. This does not work in freezing climates.
-Indirect Circulation Systems- The pumps use a heat-transfer liquid and a heat exchanger. They are better for freezing temperatures.
Passive solar water heating systems tend to be less expensive and more reliable than active systems, but they are less efficient as well.
-Integral Collector Storage Passive Systems- This systems does not work well in freezing climates. They are very efficient with daytime and nighttime hot-water.
-Thermosyphon Systems- With this system, water flows through the system when warm water rises as cooler water sinks. These are less expensive than the previously mentioned passive system. The storage tank is heavy, however, so the contractor has to pay special attention to the roof of the home.
After learning a little bit about how the solar water heater systems work, it is important to weigh the pros and cons.
These systems range from $1,500 to $3,500. Gas systems cost between $150 and $450. This difference in price is significant and one must also consider the installation costs of the solar system which can run up to $2,000 plus regular maintenance costs.
Having explained costs, the solar systems last around the same as the gas systems yet they’re payback happens in four to eight years when you weigh gas vs. electrical bills. This means that within four to eight years, it is as though you are not paying for hot water anymore.
Another bonus can be found in tax credits. For any system installed after December 31, 2008, there is no maximum to the possible tax credit. Energy Star also has their own line of solar water heaters, which provides a full line of commercial and domestic energy efficient products.
Solar water heaters are not all mighty, however, and do have their fair share of negatives. For starters, the maximum water temperature that can be reached is lower than that of a regular on-demand system and the heating process tends to be slower.
The reliance on weather also provides a hurdle as the unit needs sunlight to produce the hot water. Many of the newer systems have a backup system to negate this.
One of the biggest concerns is their water storage tank. These can get quite large and if a contractor does not install them properly, there is risk of the roof getting damaged, as well as the interior of the home.
All of the negative aside, solar powered water heaters prove to be an economically feasible and friendly option for homeowners who plan to stay in the same home for an extended period of time and reap the benefits of the payback.
Water remains my favorite and most important issue when addressing green building
concerns. It is certainly not the most important topic when looking at the
various certification checklists, like the USGBC LEED rating system. It finally
received a prerequisite in the last update, but is dwarfed in the overall point
scale by considerations for energy and materials.
Energy indeed has gotten a lot of attention in the last few months, especially the
concept of net-zero energy. The net zero concept is very appealing by taking
advantage of the existing infrastructure rather than having to create a full
independent power storage unit. Typically the consumption averages out to zero
over the term of a 12 month period.
The same concept can be used for the consumption of water; essentially creating an onsite
water filter systems. Water will not be able to quite be net zero, due to
evaporation and other environmental factors that are undoubtedly part of the
cleaning process. But a recycled water loop will probably be about 95%
effective. The remaining 5% can easily be made up by rain water or a well,
depending on the geographic location of the project.
The interesting part to me is the energy that is required to move and clean water.
By bringing this aspect of water use directly to the project, much energy can
be saved on the moving of water to and from the project and the reality of net
zero energy and water is much more realistic to attain.
Considering now, that in California for example about one third of the state’s energy is
used to clean and transport water, it does seem a little like putting the stick
before the carrot…
I am grateful to be part of a cutting research project at the University of Miami
that is addressing this very topic: The net zero water dorm. This project will
have move students into a retrofitted hall to be the live users of on-site
cleaned water – all water, from sinks, showers and toilets.
What can you do for your own project? Continue to focus on water reduction in daily
use and install conservation features in your renovation and new construction.
Dual flush toilets or even composting toilets are readily available. Low flow
shower heads and faucets are standard for all manufacturers and a rain
collection system such as simple rain barrel can be installed in any project.
Use the best suited system for water heating, be it on demand, solar or
conventional tank with a PV panel to power it. By using water intelligently,
the use of energy can also be reduced. Why not be the first house to clean your
Start your own water conserving project with http://www.SebastianEilert.com
Filed under: Air Quality, Building knowledge, Energy Efficiency, Hot Topic, Sustainable Living, Water Efficiency
After going over so many possible options to improve the energy efficiency for your home I find it time to put together an official weatherization package.
There are plenty of rebates currently available and even more are coming in the next few weeks and months. This is indeed a great time to look at energy improvements for your home and small business. Not just will you be able to significantly improve your operating cost, but the Government will help you pay for it. The upcoming incentives are certainly a positive aspect of the recovery act that has found its way to the end consumer.
A concise Weatherization package should include at a minimum the analysis of the windows and doors, insulating in the walls and especially in the roof and attic. These simple primary starting points can lead to substantial savings in a very short time by controlling your building envelope. Energy savings do not end with the way you use your shell; it is only the beginning.
Consider additional energy and water savings with other improvements such as HVAC update and roof replacement. There are also rebates to update your water heater, dishwasher and refrigerator.
The homestar retrofit rebate package is the governments’ incentive under the Recovery act to provide partial funding for improvements for homeowner for reducing their energy bills. Regardless of this package, there are many sensible options to improve the use of energy in your home.
More information about the Homestar pacakage can also be found here.
If you need additional help and like a project specific analysis, please contact me:
Sebastian Eilert, AIA, LEED AP
Filed under: Building knowledge, Resources, Sustainable Living, Water Efficiency | Tags: Landscaping, Sebastian Eilert Architecture, Water Savings
Previously mentioned in landscaping and irrigation posts, a rain barrel is a wonderful way to use some of that otherwise wasted water and reduce your potable water need for irrigation. There are some good options available for sale, but why not get creative and make it a fun weekend project to build your own piece of green building – a rain barrel.
I noticed a number of workshops for this and have myself 2 preferred sources, one of them in our backyard at the University of Florida. They have teamed up with Miami Dade County Consumer and Water Department and are going around town to show and tell how it is done.
I recently noticed them at the Coral Gables Farmers market and at the Going Green day for the Village of Pinecrest…so keep looking for them.
- Drill bit ½-inch to 1-inch
- Drill bit 3/16-inch
- Drill bit 1/8 inch
- Marking pen
- Phillips screw driver
- Pocket knife
- Extension cord
- Safety glasses
Plastic drum (55 gal. is best). Barrels that have carried food products are recommended. Some cleaning product barrels are OK after rinsing. Do NOT use petroleum or toxic chemical barrels.
The following are all PVC fittings:
- Two-inch male adapter
- Two-inch male slip x 3/4-inch female threaded adapter
- 3/4-inch male threaded x 3/4-inch female threaded elbow (3/4 inch street el)
- Four inch long 3/4-inch threaded nipple
The following can be either metal or plastic:
- 3/4-inch female sillcock or hose bibb
- PVC cement
- Teflon™ tape or Teflon™ pipe joint compound
- Silicone sealant
- Three stainless steel sheet metal screws #10 x 3/4 inch
- Stainless steel mesh with plastic rim kitchen strainer (4 to 6 inch diameter)
- Turn the barrel so that the end with no openings is facing up.
- Fit the strainer on the end which is facing up so that it lays flat.
- Mark around the perimeter of the strainer, remove strainer and draw another line about ½ inch inside the perimeter line.
- Drill a pilot hole using the large bit just inside the inner drawn circle.
- Using the saber saw follow the inner circle line until the circle is removed. Remove the circle if it has fallen into the barrel. This is a good time to make sure the barrel is clean inside.
- Drill pilot holes in the strainer flanges and handle using the 3/16-inch bit. Place the strainer on the barrel and mark the hole locations on the barrel.
- Drill pilot holes in the barrel using the 1/8-inch bit.
- Partially screw into the strainer the #10 screws. Check to make sure the strainer holes match the barrel holes.
- Apply silicone sealant to the strainer rim and place the strainer into position. Tighten screws until just snug. (Pat yourself on the back, you have just completed the first part of the barrel).
- Place the barrel on its side. Unscrew one of the plastic filler plugs in the other end of the barrel.
- Apply PVC cement to the two-inch male adapter sleeve and place the two-inch male x 3/4-inch female threaded adapter inside and press together for a few seconds.
- Insert street el into the 3/4-inch hole of the adapter. Use teflon tape or sealant on all threaded parts
- Insert 4 inch nipple into street el
- Screw assembly into barrel. Four-inch nipple will work as a wrench to tighten first two fittings.
- Connect water faucet to 4-inch nipple. Hand-tighten to proper position.
- Place barrel on level, sturdy base. Direct downspout over the strainer. (Hooray, you now have a functioning rain barrel).
Here are some more helpful hints from UF: http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/
Contact Sebastian Eilert about your green project of any size (Sebastian@SebastianEilert.com 786.556.3118)
Filed under: Building knowledge, Construction and Permits, Energy Efficiency, Landscaping, Sustainable Living, Water Efficiency
Final post about tips to improve your home and make it a more green building; for your health, for your wallet and for your overall well being…
Part I will focus on small to no budget items (please see previous post)
Part II will look at medium expenses or items to look at if they break and need (NEED!) replacement
Part III will look at the big changes that will have a lasting impact on your life 9from a green building perspective, but who knows, maybe more…)
Part III. What really works:
Lighting. After changing the light bulbs and also some of the fixtures and installing dimmers, the next big step is to consider a building automation system. This low voltage system can connect all your lighting, temperature control, audio and video systems, including alarms and smart appliances. You can than control these devices much more precise and even get remote access (smart phones already gear up for these features). BY monitoring the output of the building automation system you can optimize power uses and fine tune any waste generated by lights left on or appliances not needed. These systems generally also have a vacation setting, enabling a quick way to trim all the power use you do not need on a daily basis when not in your home. Great feature but a bit expensive. These systems start around $5000 for a small home with limited low voltage tie ins.
Air Conditioning. The general rule is to look at a unit when it is 10 years or older. Typically systems have advanced in efficiency and the payback to upgrade can be realized in 4-6 years. Look for the SEER value. This is the indicator of how efficient the unit is. Current code required a 13 SEER unit; a 16 or 17 SEER unit is considered high efficiency and 18+ SEER is very high efficiency. The later are a choice investment and should be evaluated for Life Cycle Cost and Return of Investment. (THIS OPTION WILL REQUIRE A PERMIT)
Remember to upkeep the correct filters and also clean the ducts, if you do not replace them.
Roof / Shell: you already looked at your windows and doors and have sealed all leakage. The next step is to invest in the buildings shell. The big collector in South Florida is the roof. Over 80% of heat gain to the house will come from above with our year round sunshine. Do not just consider Hurricane issue but go beyond and think about the energy savings from this large surface. All roofs in Miami Dade County are required to withstand Hurricane strength winds, by code, so any roof will comply with this general concern. Move away from the low budget option of asphalt tile and a great value are metal roofs. These reflect well and are sturdy. This will overall be my recommendation for it is safe and efficient. (THIS OPTION WILL REQUIRE A PERMIT)
You can also consider sealing the existing or new roof with a high SRI (Solar Reflectance Index) coating, such as SuperTherm. I had applied this system over my existing asphalt shingle roof and lowered my attic temperate from over 140 degrees to about 85 during last summer. Great savings translating to your energy bill. A product like Super Therm runs about $2.60 per square foot installed.
If you like to kick it up one more notch, consider adding photovoltaic panels to your roof. A 5kW system will cost about $50,000 initially, but there are rebates and tax credits available lowering the out of pocket cost to potentially less than $15,000; not a bad number, especially when you considering adding this system instead of a generator (and you are sure not to run out gas, should the need arise). The installation of such a system will also require connection to your electrical system and requires assistance of professional services. (THIS OPTION WILL REQUIRE A PERMIT)
In regard to landscaping and water savings, the big ticket item is a cistern. After installing gutters and properly channeling your rain water run off, collecting hits precious water as well some of the waste water already generated to reduce the amount of potable (drinkable) water used ion your home is the final frontier. These tanks are similar to septic tanks in size and can be installed above or below ground.
Currently you can use this water for irrigation, in the future, legislation will adapt to also use reclaimed and collected water for toilet flushing.
For specific help, contact Sebastian Eilert to get a custom plan to green your home.